No matter what, the Fresno State Bulldogs were not going to lose this game.
Not in front of a sellout crowd of 41,031 at Bulldog Stadium. Not with the hopes of an undefeated season on the line.
And, after seven straight losses, not to the Boise State Broncos.
The Bulldogs held a steady lead, but it all threatened to slip away after Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick carried the ball into the end zone for the Broncos’ first lead of the game. It made the score 40-34 with 7:04 left in the fourth quarter.
But this was a familiar tune for the Bulldogs, and they were not done yet.
“We acted like it was no big deal,” said Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter. “We said, ‘Hey, we were here a couple of weeks ago with Rutgers. Let’s just do what we do, and that’s go down the field and score,’”
“I just smiled [after Boise State scored],” said Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. “It’s just funny, all the close games we’ve had at home.”
Carr remained focused and was ready to get back to work.
With less than three minutes remaining, Carr handed the ball off twice to running back Josh Quezada. First it was a 3-yard run, where he ended inches away from the end zone. On the next play, Quezada found his way past the goal line for a 1-yard score.
“To see Josh score that last touchdown was special,” said DeRuyter said.
The Bulldogs regained the lead, 41-40, but there was still work to do.
With 2:14 remaining in the game, the Broncos had the chance to keep their winning streak against the Bulldogs alive.
With a minute remaining, Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick completed three consecutive passes to bring the ball past midfield. One incomplete pass later, and the Broncos were facing a 4th-and-6 situation.
Southwick took three steps back and glanced to his left. He spotted wide receiver Kirby Moore and threw the ball in his direction. But there to break it up was Bulldogs defensive back Jonathan Norton. The ball hit the ground, and the Bulldogs sealed a victory.
A full house erupted in the stadium and the Bulldogs celebrated their first win over Boise State since Nov. 10, 2005.
“To see [Norton] make that play … was huge,” an emotional DeRuyter said.
The Bulldogs will celebrate the return of the Milk Can to Fresno, but there are still eight games remaining in the season. As they savor the victory, there is still a bigger goal ahead.
“Our No. 1 goal is to win the Mountain West Conference,” DeRuyter said. “We have to go 1-0 every single week. Hopefully we get a chance to host [the championship game] here and then we have to win that final one again.”
“That’s what we play for,” said Carr. “We play for championships.”